There’s no magic formula for writing a blog, mostly because there are so many kinds, and different ways of approaching blog writing; which is what makes the blogosphere such an interesting place. The personal journal lives on, but we’ve evolved the blog format to help us get news, insight, how-to guidance and so much more. So what one person considers an outstanding blog post might be considered fairly uninteresting to someone else.
The most important thing to remember is that “outstanding” is in the eye of the beholder. What makes a blog post outstanding anyway? Is it the traffic you get from it? The number of comments? How it makes you feel? Links? What it makes you think about?
All of the above, really. I often receive very little feedback from some of the posts that I consider my best. Other times, posts I thought were so-so, receive tons of attention. I suspect that happens to a lot of bloggers.
Nevertheless, the key is to write to the best of your ability each and every time. And more importantly, to always be learning, experimenting and improving. With that in mind, here are the 5 steps I go through when trying to write the best blog post possible.
- Think in Bite-Sized Chunks. Part of this is being in the Blogger Mindset at all times, where you’re always thinking about experiences or ideas in your life that could be written about. But it’s also a good way of tackling the actual writing. Don’t write in huge chunks, about huge ideas, in huge amounts of time. Crystallize your thoughts. Crystallize your writing. Keep it small and concise. Go after the headline first — which is a great way to think in bite-sized chunks, because headlines are shorter than the posts they precede.
I try and think in “list format.” That might sound silly, but when I’m thinking about something, I break it down into a list in my head. That doesn’t mean every post I write is a list, but it helps structure ideas clearly. (And lists aren’t a bad way to write either!)
- Write in Your Head. Get in the habit of writing blog posts in your head. If you sit down to write a blog post and you haven’t thought through the key points, introduction, ending, etc. you’ll probably be sitting at the computer longer than you have to. Trying to write full posts in your head is pretty difficult, and you don’t want to lose anything in there amongst all the other marbles rolling around, so get your ideas out quick, but let them percolate too.
The more you write inside your head the better the writing comes out.
- Edit On-The-Fly. Take breaks while writing a blog post, save a draft (don’t forget to save!) and go back to read what you’ve written. I like editing blog posts that aren’t finished. It gives you a chance to make sure you’re still on track with your original plans, and fix the details as well. Some of that nitpicky editing will help you finish up the blog post; by improving the remainder of your writing. You may also see that you’re heading in the wrong direction – off on a tangent – or losing your original message.
Never stop editing, until you hit “publish.” (Even then, you can still edit.) Edit with broad strokes: “Am I saying what I really wanted to say?” And edit with a fine-toothed comb: “Is that word really necessary?”
- Connect the Dots. Blogs need a lot of continuity of thought and subject matter to attract repeat business. If one day you’re talking about how to train a dog and the next day you’re talking about politics, never going back to the subject of dogs, you’ll attract an audience but not a community. Repeat visitors create a community. So it’s important to connect the dots between your blog posts.
I often do this while writing and during the editing process. I’ll see some keywords in my blog post, remember something I wrote previously, look it up and link the posts together. I do this to link to other blogs as well. Use Google Blog Search (or your RSS Reader) to find information on your subject matter, read some of the posts, and find some worth linking to. Integrate those links into your post.
- Check Your Headline Again. The #1 biggest mistake bloggers make is they write bad headlines. They put their heart and soul into an outstanding blog post only to lead with, “My ideas on life.” Um…yawn?
Great headlines are so absolutely important I can’t emphasize this point enough. And it’s why I always re-read and re-think my headline before publishing anything. Some bloggers think headline writing is only important if you’re trying to attract lots of traffic from search engines or digg. That’s wrong. Flat out wrong.
Going back to the headline also gives you a chance to re-think your blog post. Suddenly you come up with a great headline and realize you can rearrange some elements of your post, adjust it, add a bit or take something away. It’s your last chance to edit and refine your blog post to perfection.
Writing the best blog posts possible is a combination of mechanics and inspiration.
Take your inspiration and passion, and add layers of mechanics – good copywriting, strategic linking, etc. Inspiration and passion without good mechanics leads to a lot of ranting. Good mechanics without any passion leads to a lot of boring content. The best blog posts come from writing through inspiration with skillful precision.
I wrote this in part because I was bloggy tagged. Click the graphic above to see who tagged me!
Since I’m already in the process of coordinating a group writing project – The Ultimate Guide to Productivity – I won’t confuse the matter with more tagging. But anyone can pick this up and say they were tagged by me. Just read the rules first.